Vet issues warning over avian malaria

Bubba the crow, from Milton Keynes, who was diagnosed with avian malaria at West Bar Veterinary Hospital in Banbury NNL-160501-121636001
Bubba the crow, from Milton Keynes, who was diagnosed with avian malaria at West Bar Veterinary Hospital in Banbury NNL-160501-121636001
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A veterinary hospital is warning bird owners to be aware of avian malaria after recently diagnosing two cases.

West Bar Veterinary Hospital, in Banbury, treated a blue and gold macaw called Charlie, from Swindon, and a crow called Bubba, from Milton Keynes.

It is believed to be the first time that avian malaria has been diagnosed in Banbury, and is evidence of how widespread the disease has become within the UK, both in pet and non-­migratory wild birds.

Over the past four years, there has been an upsurge in the disease killing sparrows, chaffinches, owls, nightingales, greenfinches and an outbreak in 2012 which killed a number of penguins at London Zoo.

The recent increase in this tropical disease has been attributed to global warming, because the mosquitoes that spread it have benefited from England’s warmer and wetter climate.

Avian malaria is caused by plasmodium relictum, which like human malaria is a disease which infects the liver, spleen and red blood cells and uses the mosquito and biting midge as vectors. Avian malaria is not a threat to humans.

Symptoms in infected birds range from none, where the bird is an asymptomatic carrier, to anorexia, lethargy, depression, anaemia and vomiting.

Treatment is through antimalarial medication.